How I learned to stop worrying and love socialism

 

The wage slave system drains our blood;
The rich are free from obligation,
The laws the poor delude.
Too long we’ve languished in subjection,
Equality has other laws

–the International/E.Pottier

 

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors
–Help!/the Beatles

 

I don’t really have a point to make today, so I’ll tell a story of inaction and the wonders of socialism.

When I lived in Paris, I had a job as a waitress in a cafeteria in one of the suburbs on the opposite side of town from where I lived. That meant a 45 minute commute by train. Which was great–the public transportation in Paris is wonderful, or it was back in the Stone Ages when I lived there. Commute time = reading time, so I didn’t mind it.

Waitressing did not agree with me–over period of a month or two I started to get sick. Maybe it wasn’t waiting tables at all. It could have been the layer of mold lining the concrete block walls of the appartment I lived in. Maybe I’m just a wimp. Whatever the cause, I was not doing well. I lost a lot of weight and was exhausted all the time. Because I was in my early 20’s, broke, and working 6 days a week, it didn’t occur to me to go to the doctor.

One morning on my way to work, I fainted on the train. I woke up a couple of stops away on the floor of the train. Everyone in the seats around me had moved as far away from me as possible, so I found myself all alone, crumpled on the floor in my little red waitress uniform.Although there were a few dozen people there with me, they were all squashed together in one half of the car pretending not to notice me on the floor.

And no one helped me get up.

At the next station, I managed to crawl off the train and sat with my back against the wall of the subway station for a little while, too weak to get up onto the bench. People on the bench also moved away from me. I assume that people either thought I was contagious or a junkie. Or both.

For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone to help me. It was very clear that I needed help and it was just as clear that no one was planning on offering. After what seemed like a long time, I managed to get to a pay phone and called my husband and asked him to come and get me.

He pointed out something that I didn’t even know, or had maybe forgotten. In France, anyone who works at any sort of job legally has health insurance. The pharmacies will typically post the address and phone number of the nearest physician seeing patients on call. So off we went to indulge in some Socialism. a visit to a doctor. They did some labs, and it turned out I had some sort of electrolyte imbalance causing my heart to do funny things. (I didn’t think it was a bit funny). They wrote orders for me to stay home for a period of at least 4 weeks. When I said I couldn’t be off work without a paycheck for that long, they looked at me like I was an idiot and told me that it was covered. Not only that, but that there could be random home checks to make sure I was home resting. I ended up being off work for something like 6 weeks with full pay.

When we got home, my husband asked me what I thought would have happened if I’d passed out in a subway in the US. My guess was that someone probably would have stolen my purse, but that someone else would have helped me get up and make a phone call. Then I’d have gone back to work after a day or two because I wouldn’t be able to take much time off. I’d have been sick for months in a purely capitalist society.

Vive la effing France, mes amis! They could give a crap about the individual person laying on the floor of a subway car, but once that individual gets off the ground she can get some pretty awesome health care and actually stand a chance of recovering from what ails her.

The lesson? Or rather, the question?
Is it better to care more for society as a whole than for each  individual or to hold the individual as sacred at the cost of what is best for society?

I’m voting for society on this one, even if people think that means I’m a socialist.

Are individuals important? Absolutely.

Do I think the US values the individual too much and neglects the good of society? Very much so.

 

I’m going to use that word again, aren’t I?

Yep.

 

Balance.

Why’s it so fucking hard?

That’s a serious question, and I have no idea what the answer is.